Thursday, 17 Jun 2021

Cecil Rhodes statue: Tory MP slams attempts to ‘ransack’ UK history with statue toppling

Cecil Rhodes: Tom Hunt argues Oxford statue should remain

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A Conservative MP has criticised earlier calls for the statue of Cecil Rhodes at Oxford College to be taken down. Tom Hunt was speaking on the BBC’s Politics Live as the panel discussed the implications of an announcement by Oriel College, Oxford that they would not remove the Rhodes statue due to financial and legal implications. The decision comes despite an independent report recommending its removal.

Referring to the toppling of the Edward Colston statue in Bristol by Black Lives Matter protestors last summer, Mr Hunt said of the commission: “This is an independent commission that the college put together and actually I know one of the members on it I think embraced the Colston statue being illegally taken down so I don’t necessarily think this commission is beyond question.”

Mr Hunt went on to say: “I think the vast majority in our country do not want to see statue toppling.

“They do not want to see us going around ransacking our past.”

He continued: “Ultimately this particular statue, Cecil Rhodes, was a man of his time.

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“By all means, let’s have a debate about the man. His links to unsavoury aspects of our past but ultimately we can agree that he was a key figure for that college.

“And I just don’t know what it achieves by toppling his statue.”

Rhodes, a 19th-century British businessman and politician in Southern Africa with links to the slave trade, bequeathed £100,000 (around £12.5 million in today’s money) to Oriel College upon his death in 1905.

The Rhodes Must Fall Campaign originally began to topple another statue at the University of Cape Town in 2015, but quickly spread to Oxford University where students have spent years campaigning to bring the statue down.

 

Campaigners have argued for years that the statue is representative of white supremacy and imperialism.

In June 2020, a petition for the statue’s removal attracted over 80,000 signatures.

Oriel college said in its statement that it upheld the decision taken by its board of governors in June 2020 to remove the Rhodes statue, but that it would not “begin the legal process” of removing the statue owing to anticipated “regulatory and financial challenges.” 

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It added that the time to address these issues “could run into years with no certainty of outcome, together with the total cost of removal.”

The statement also cited the fact that the removal of the statue would be subject to the scrutiny of the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Mr Jenrick said in January that he would introduce legislation to protect statues from what he describes as “baying mobs.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in June last year that to remove statues was to “lie about our history.”

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